When is it acceptable to leave your child at home for a short while? This question comes up frequently and it is quite a contentious question with many answers. When can kids stay home alone is relative to their maturity, the length of time and whether other siblings are about?
Growing up in the late 80’s I remember a holiday with my parents where our caravan was next to the club house. Yet the clubhouse did not allow children in. So on a couple of occasions in evenings, my mum and dad popped next door for a drink, leaving my brother and me with a packet of crisps and a bottle of coke. They kept popping back to check on us. We were certainly not left late late at night, it was probably 90 mins or so. Yet now this would probably be frowned upon.
The law is rather vague on when can kids stay home alone. There is no set age but parents commit an offence if leaving the child at home alone puts him or her at risk. Many take this to mean that under 13’s should not be left alone. Yet this is also the age many start babysitting for others! Therefore one day they are not suitably equipped to look after themselves but the next they can look after themselves and a younger child! This seems rather bizarre to me.
Many start leaving their children home alone in the last year of primary school – they believe this is a good age to start that transition as they prepare for secondary school. This is about the age I started leaving mine for short periods. I have quite a laid back parenting approach and now that I have two teenagers I do leave Erin who is 8 with them. At first I only left her if her big sister was also at home. In the past year I have left her with her brother who is now 14. Erin is a very easy child and I have no concerns about leaving her with her siblings. I would not leave her home alone though. I leave Erin for up to an hour or so with our 14 year old unless it is the evening when she is asleep. Then we would leave for a few hours but be home by about 10.30 and our 14 year old waits up for us.
When children start secondary school many start making their own way to school, by bus, walking or riding their bikes. In my opinion, leaving them at home before this helps to start this process of growing independence.
What age would you leave your child home alone?
Tips on preparing to leave kids home alone
- Have clear guidelines on what they are allowed to do. Things like no cooking, answering doors etc is good practice.
- Make sure the kids know how to contact you.
- Give them the time that you will be home and stick to it no matter what.
- Most important is that the teen or tween is happy to be left alone. Do they feel safe, if not they are not ready for the responsibility?
- Start with leaving for only a very short time and build it up. Pop to the local shop at first, or take the dog for a quick walk. Make sure they felt happy with this before leaving them for longer.
Let me know your thoughts on when can kids stay home alone in the comments below.